We've all heard of birth-gasms, so why not blissful birth-trances?

While one practitioner's description of natural birth method HypnoBirthing as "not the most painful thing I've ever experienced," and "intense, but manageable" may not sound exactly like Nirvana, the combo of relaxation via visualization and deep breathing is becoming a popular alternative to drugs for some moms. Although it's based on the work of British obstetrician Grantly Dick-Read, the official method was invented by one Marie Mongan, whose 1992 tome HypnoBirthing, the Mongan Method is still the practitioners' Bible. Now there's a HypnoBirthing Institute in Epsom, NH, and practitioners all over (certain parts of) the country.

The official HypnoBirthing packet, which, says the NY Post, "includes two CDs, the book and five classes with a practitioner, costs about $375", and for a fee, practitioners will attend the birth, too. Says the website, "As a birthing method, HypnoBirthing® is as new as tomorrow and as old as ancient times. It is presented in a series of five, 2 1/2-hour classes."

As to the method itself, it's pretty intuitive to anyone who's done any biofeedback or relaxation therapy - or, for that matter, natural childbirth or Lamaze (indeed, one is tempted to wonder why a patented name was really necessary) and involves visualization, relaxation techniques and "self-hypnosis." The website is full of glowing testimonials to the method's efficacy, although those adverse to the touchy-feely should be warned that there is a soft-focus picture of a baby being stroked by a long-stem red rose. (There is also an official cruise to the Caribbean.) It must be said: those mothers who posted their Hypnobirths on YouTube do look amazingly relaxed.

According to the far from touchy-feely Post, HypnoBirthing is not without its critics.

Dr. Samantha Feder, an OB-GYN with St. Luke's-Roosevelt Hospital, says she saw one patient enter such a deep trance that she was hardly present during the birth."The patient is putting herself into a trancelike state, so she's not very present in the room physically," says Feder."She achieved her goal of not having any pain medication, but she seemed a little dulled to the experience."

So...drugs without the drugs? Doesn't sound so bad. That said, the same doctor reports that in another case, the method didn't work at all, and the mother "required medical intervention," which we interpret as "screaming for drugs."


Another doctor adds that while these techniques are fine and great for those who use them (and, really, who could object to relaxation techniques? Aren't they a part of basically any birth plan?), no woman should be stigmatized for going the "unnatural" route. "We are so judgmental about the drug versus drug-free childbirth debate. Women who had an epidural or a C-section are made to feel lesser than other women who did not...it's not like they're sitting on the couch watching TV and eating chips or something."

It's Not Labor, It's Bliss! [NY Post]